When You Are Negotiating, It’s Really All About Style

During a negotiation, style supersedes substance
During a negotiation, style supersedes substance
Image Credit: ifranz

When we start a negotiation, we want things to go our way. The big question that we all wrestle with is just exactly how to make this happen? I believe that a lot of what determines how your next negotiation is going to turn out has to do with how the other side views you. Specifically, what’s your style – what kind of initial assessment are they going to make of you?

In A Negotiation, It’s All About Style

So just exactly what is this thing that we refer to as “style”? I believe that your style is not based on your negotiation styles or negotiating techniques, but rather is based on the words that you use during a negotiation along with language of your behavior. Both of these things come together and represent your character to the other side of the table. It is from this information that they are going to be able to make an assessment of both your trustworthiness and your sincerity.

The question that anyone that you negotiate with is going to be trying to answer will be “is this the type of person that I really want to do business with?” It’s how you negotiate that will determine the style that you portray to the other side. Generally, this consists of two things: your manner and your approach to the negotiation. Your style is very, very important. I believe that it counts for content of the discussion or what you happen to be talking about.

What makes good style you ask? I believe that there are five key characteristics: sharing of your feelings, active listening, patience, warmth and sincerity, and finally consideration for the other side’s value and self-esteem. What this comes down to is the simple fact that how you engage in a negotiation is going to have an impact on the feelings, emotions, rapport, perceptions, expectations and trust that both sides feel during the negotiations.

Just How Powerful Is This Style Stuff?

If style deals with the “how” of a negotiation, that still leaves a very big question regarding the “what” of the negotiation. Generally speaking the what has to do with any of the topics that will be openly discussed during the actual negotiations. This includes such things as delivery dates, quality, amounts, and price. These items are easy to talk about – they are, after all, what we will be negotiating. However, what we often don’t realize is that in the end it’s going to be your style (the how) that will win over substance (the what) and have a bigger impact on the other side’s decision making.

Once we start to understand just how important our personal style is to our next negotiation, we may be tempted to try to change it in order to gain a competitive advantage in the negotiations. It turns out that you don’t want to do this – you’ll just end up trying to be someone whom you are not. A much better game plan is to just be yourself. This will allow you to relax and by doing this you’ll be better positioned to play the game of negotiation.

The best negotiators are able to gain respect from the other side. It is their style that allows them to get this respect. The best negotiators realize the true power of the style that they have and know how to use it during a negotiation. They understand what they have to do during a negotiation in order to move things along and make things happen. The ultimate result of their participating in a negotiation is that they leave their imprint on both the negotiation and the people who participated in it.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators we are always interested in trying to find out what it is going to take in order for us to be successful in our next principled negotiation . Although we may not realize it at first, how the other side views us can have a big impact on the results of our negotiation. What’s going to affect how they see us will be our style that we bring to the table.

Your style is going to be based on both the words that you use and the language that your behavior is speaking to the other side. Your manner and your approach to the negotiation is going to help the other side to answer the question of whether or not they really want to do business with you. How you choose to engage in a negotiation is going to have an impact on the final results that you’ll be able to achieve.

Simply knowing that your style can play such a big role in determining how your next negotiation turns out can go a long way. With this knowledge you will become more conscious of the style that you are portraying to the other side and you’ll start to better understand how you can use it to your advantage. Realize that in your next negotiation, it’s going to be style over substance and make sure that you bring your best style to the table.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: What steps can you take to improve your negotiating style?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Whenever we sit down across the table from the other party, the big question that hangs in the air is just exactly how should we go about starting this negotiation? There are almost a countless number of possibilities here. However, if we want to be able to reach the deal that we desire with the other side, then we’re going to have to be smart enough to start things out the right way. But what is the right way?